Given that GM Ryan Pace wanted to take the team in an entirely different direction than John Fox, parting ways with the Bears former head coach made plenty of sense at the time (and still does now!). And in hiring Matt Nagy as his replacement, it appeared as if – finally – the Bears GM and head coach were in lock-step philosophically. Don’t discount the important of pulling in the same direction. It can mean everything.
It’s possible that much is true – that Pace and Nagy are legitimately battling together – but also that Pace might not be holding up his end of the bargain. Hayden Winks (Rotoworld) uses an analytics slant to dissect offenses and in so doing has some bad news for Bears fans.
Little to anyone’s surprise, the team ranked poorly here (22nd), landing in a tier titled “Behind the Curve.” I didn’t need analytics to tell me that, but I suppose it’s good to have data back up the eye test. Even still … That’s not where the Bears were supposed to be as they entered Year 3 of Nagy’s offense.
The good news is that it’s not all bad news. But the problem might be that the issues could be out of Nagy’s control. Check out Winks’ angle:
“If I incorporated the front office, the Bears would be much lower, but I think Nagy holds his own in terms of in-game analytics usage. He’s just been dealt a horrible hand at quarterback and with the offensive line.”
So while Nagy’s offense wears it in the rankings, Winks offers up that the real issue with the unit lies with roster construction and specifically Ryan Pace. That’s bold. But maybe that’s what the numbers bear out.
Winks offers up how Chicago ranks well in pass rate on early downs and while trailing, while also having plus usage of shotgun, targets in the middle of the field, and ranking in the middle of the pack in downfield pass rate. These metrics back up Winks’ claim that Nagy “holds his own” from an analytics perspective. Based on that set of data, the Bears should’ve had a better on the offensive side of the ball. Although, there are places where the Bears could improve. Winks underscores fourth-down aggressiveness, (lowercase) pace, play-action rate, and pre-snap motion as areas that need to be better.
And yet, I keep coming back to Winks writing how Nagy has “been dealt a horrible hand” when it comes to the QB situation and his protection. Because when explaining why the Bears offense faltered in 2019, those two areas go hand-in-hand. Mitchell Trubisky received an extensive chunk of the blame after a year of regression, but that comes with the territory. Meanwhile, the offensive line takes a fair amount of heat for not doing what they can to help the quarterback situation at the point of attack. But in Winks’ piece, it’s Pace who gets the biggest sideswipe of them all. And it’s got me thinking about how this is a make-or-break year for the GM.
We’re a long way from finding an answer to these questions, but I have to ask them:
• What if Nagy continues to grade out positively from an advanced metrics angle and improves on noted weak spots?
• Better yet, what happens if improvements happen with Nick Foles, a quarterback who is well-versed in offensive systems similar to Nagy’s?
• What will it say about Pace?
• What will it say about Trubisky?
Again, there is a long time between now and when those questions will have answers. But that I’m even putting these questions out there makes me feel uneasy, especially knowing we’re only a year removed from seeing Pace lauded for his efforts by his peers in winning the league’s top executive award.